We must hold UT accountable, ensure justice for George Floyd

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Photo Credit: Gianna Shahdad | Daily Texan Staff

*Editor’s Note: In response to nationwide protests in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the fight for racial equality we've seen throughout the country, several student organizations at UT made public statements condemning police violence and demanding justice for George Floyd. This is a submitted piece, written by The University of Texas at Austin Student Government and a coalition of traditionally Black UT student organizations, which the Texan chose to publish in an effort to amplify Black voices on campus.

On May 25, 2020, over 1,000 miles away from The University of Texas at Austin, George Floyd was brutally murdered by Minneapolis police. We stand in complete solidarity with the Black community at UT, in Minneapolis and across the country in the fight for racial justice. The University of Texas at Austin Student Government stands with the Black Student Alliance at UT, as well as a coalition of traditionally Black organizations on campus, to condemn this heinous act of violence and injustice that took away an innocent life. We recognize that in the past, Student Government has seldom been involved in advocating for social issues, but with our current administration, we will use our platform to intentionally advocate for these causes and amplify Black voices that are too often underrepresented and silenced. We commit ourselves to remedy the history of inaction in UT Student Government and to fight for racial justice on our campus and beyond.

George Floyd's story represents a history of systemic racism within this country and is added to the list of countless deaths of Black Americans, such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and more. There is a history of police brutality in the Austin community as well, most recently with the story of Michael Ramos. On April 24, 2020, Michael Ramos, who was unarmed, was shot by a member of the Austin Police force. This incident aligns with the countless studies which have shown that Black people have been disproportionately targeted by law enforcement agencies compared to their white counterparts. We feel it is necessary to bring light to this issue that is pervasive not only in Minneapolis but also in our own community and across the nation.

We know that many of you, especially those in the Black community, are tired of reading statements that are not followed with swift and meaningful action. That is why we want to be completely transparent in putting forth policies that reflect the sentiments expressed today. We will immediately begin working on:

1. Ensuring that there are open channels of communication between UTSG and traditionally Black organizations and activists on campus, not just in this time, but in the future as well.

2. Pressuring UT administration on donating rollover Student Government funds to community organizations and nonprofits, which is currently not allowed under UT rules.

3. Holding regular meetings with The University of Texas Police Department to ensure that adequate policies and training practices are in place or adopted to preserve the dignity of all students on campus.

4. Minimizing ties between UTPD and Austin Police Department to ensure that we are able to hold accountable the police officers that are charged with protecting and serving our campus.

​​5. Requesting that the $8 million in funds from the Board of Regents to UTPD be redistributed to traditionally Black organizations and students.

6. Releasing surveys to the UT community pertaining to racism on campus and sentiments toward UTPD from students, staff and faculty so that we are better able to serve the needs of our community.

Student Government has also compiled a list of resources to use as a guide in light of these incidents. This list includes resources for advocacy, education and mental health support. We extend our gratitude toward Black activists and allies that have continued to share these resources for reeducation.

We will not stop producing policy and calling on leadership to do the same until the UT experience is not negatively or violently tainted by systems of injustice. We are committed to doing the work that will provide for a better, more equitable reality on campus and ask that you hold us accountable in our endeavors. We also call on other student organizations to be allies in this time and ask that they take concrete actions to support Black students both inside and outside of their organizations, whether that be donating to organizations such as Reclaim the Block, checking in with Black members of your organization or educating your members about allyship and anti-racism.

Signed, 

African Students Organization (ASO)

Afrikan American Affairs (AAA)

Black Student Alliance (BSA)

National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC)

Texas Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) 

UT National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 

The University of Texas at Austin Student Government